Baker Institute expert: Trump’s public health emergency must be ‘followed up with additional action’


David Ruth

Jeff Falk

Baker Institute expert: Trump’s public health emergency must be ‘followed up with additional action’

HOUSTON — (Oct. 26, 2017) — President Donald Trump’s administration today declared a public health emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic, freeing up some resources for treatment. More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Credit: University.

Credit: University.

“The public health emergency should free up federal dollars to provide assistance, although this falls short of the national emergency declaration requested by the opioid commission Trump appointed to study the issue and of Trump’s own claim at a press conference over the summer that he would declare it a national emergency,” said Katharine Neill Harris, the Alfred C. Glassell III Fellow in Drug Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. She is available to discuss the issue with media.

“Also, since it is a public health emergency, responsibility for administering additional aid falls under Department of Health and Human Services, but a new director has not been chosen since Tom Price resigned, and it is unclear how that might affect DHHS’ ability to use the emergency declaration effectively,” Neill Harris said.

“And while it is a welcome development, I hope this declaration is followed up with additional action, such as ensuring stability in health coverage for Medicaid recipients and enforcing the Mental Health Parity Act so that insurers are forced to provide mental health and substance use coverage that is on par with other medical coverage,” she said.

Neill Harris’ current research focuses on state sentencing policies for drug offenders and the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.


For more information or to schedule an interview with Neill Harris, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6775. The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available.

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Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top five university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.